A week ago, the 24-story apartment building Grenfell Tower in North Kensington of London caught fire after responders were called to deal with a small fridge fire, at which point it had already escalated and spread to the exterior of the building. After many hours of attempting to settle the blaze, which had spread extremely quickly, nearly every floor from the 4th up had suffered immense damage, and an estimated 79 lives were lost, with many still having not been found.
In the wake of this tragedy came controversy, as residents had reported safety concerns long before the fire took place. Aside from numerous maintenance failures, those living within the building only had one escape route in the event of fire, which was a single staircase down the center of the complex. Though it had been recently renovated, several residents still felt unsafe within the walls of Grenfell Tower, of which their voices went unheard. Moving forward, there are a number of factors we can take into consideration in order to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
What has been surprising to many is the fact that Grenfell Tower was a high rise building. These are specifically designed to withstand fires, and properly contain them within the area in which started, should something spark. However, firefighters and professionals have stated that the materials used to refurbish the building were to blame. Developers used aluminum back in the 1970’s, which is highly combustible, and could be the main reason why the fire was able to spread so quickly.
As mentioned before, residents only had one escape route. This should have been an obvious concern for developers from the start. Being a high rise, in the event of a fire, elevators no longer become a safe option, so several escape routes should be added. These can include staircases throughout the building, and exterior fire escapes in the form of stairs or ladders.
Many residents who called local authorities were advised to stay in their homes, as they felt that was the safest option. However, Grenfell Tower was not divided up into many sections and areas, so being that it was essentially a tall, single-sectioned building, those who followed that advice may have perished. This stresses the importance of having buildings compartmentalized, and divided in order to allow residents to move to a different area, should leaving the building not be an option.
Some of the most crucial components that were missing from Grenfell Tower was a sprinkler system, and a central fire alarm. Many people within the building didn’t even know a fire had started on the fourth floor until the flames reached their windows. Once they did, there was no system within the tower to douse the flames. Being a 24-story building, fire hoses from the ground were only able to do so much, and only to the exterior.
The faulty design of Grenfell Tower has led to outrage all over England, especially among the families of the victims. Basic design necessities were ignored, and lives were lost because of it. The United Kingdom is currently looking into more detail as to why the tower failed as terrible as it did, and engineers and developers should use this as an example of what can happen when buildings are not constructed properly.